White Sox

Start Opening Day? ‘That would be pretty cool,’ White Sox’ Carlos Rodon says

White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon was pleasantly surprised to receive a prized memento the other day: a broken bat used by Sox nemesis Ryan Raburn on April 21, 2015.

This wasn’t some random cracked bat, however. This one broke as a result of a fastball in on the hands of Raburn, the second batter Rodon faced while pitching in relief of starter Hector Noesi in his major-league debut.

Rodon entered with runners at the corners, walked Brandon Moss, then had to face a guy who is batting .296 with 20 home runs and 82 RBI in his career against the Sox — not exactly the easiest way to enter the big leagues.

Rodon made a good 3-2 pitch to Raburn, who dumped it into short left field for a two-run single.

Carlos Rodon throws to a Cleveland Indians batter during the first inning of a game Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

‘‘A duck snort, as Hawk [Harrelson] would say,’’ Rodon said.

Transforming Raburn’s lumber — which has been authenticated and will go into a trophy case, Rodon said — into trash was a moral victory Rodon had to settle for that night.

‘‘It’s awesome when you break someone’s bat,’’ Rodon said this week. ‘‘You take pride in that.’’

Rodon, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft in 2014, would be charged with two earned runs in 2„ innings that night. He expected more proud moments and keepsakes to fill his trophy case than consolation prizes between then and now.

Rodon would make 23 starts and go 9-6 with a 3.75 ERA in a solid rookie season in 2015, then would pitch 165 innings in 28 starts with a 4.04 ERA in 2016. But injuries and arthroscopic shoulder surgery last September limited him to 12 starts in 2017, when he posted a 4.15 ERA. Now that he’s healthy, Rodon looks like he’s hitting his stride with a 6-4 record and 2.89 ERA entering his start Friday against the Angels at Guaranteed Rate Field.

At 25, Rodon has pitched like an ace and the favorite to be the Sox’ Opening Day starter March 28 in Kansas City. Now that would beat breaking a bat.

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‘‘That would be pretty cool; that definitely would be a goal of mine,’’ Rodon said. ‘‘Whoever it is next year, we’ll see. It will be a fun
competition. You have to earn that. It’s not something that is just given to you.’’

As for the ‘‘ace’’ title, Rodon said whoever is pitching that day is the ace.

‘‘Whoever is pitching that day has to win,’’ he said. ‘‘But I’m cool with it.’’

Despite allowing five runs against the Red Sox in his last outing, snapping a streak of nine quality starts, Rodon is 5-1 with a 2.19 ERA in his last 10 starts and has the lowest ERA in the American League since July 5.

‘‘Carlos Rodon is blossoming into the pitcher we always projected he would be, health permitting,’’ general manager Rick Hahn said.

Rodon made his first start of the season June 9 and, if he pitches every fifth game, could make five more and log 130 to 140 innings.

‘‘To finish out the season healthy is a big part for the transition into next year,’’ Rodon said. ‘‘The goal is to finish healthy and to pitch well.’’

Rodon said he feels like he’s finishing each start strong.

‘‘As the game goes on, I get strong,’’ he said. ‘‘I pride myself in that. At the end, I’m going to empty the tank in those last few innings. It’s something I like doing. I like carrying it at the end of the game, just having that little extra.

‘‘I feel good. I’m getting to that year mark of the shoulder-surgery anniversary. That’s when the doctor says you feel pretty much back to normal. I feel pretty good. Just keep going.’’

ANGELS AT SOX
Friday: Felix Pena (1-4, 4.19 ERA) vs. Carlos Rodon (6-4, 2.89), 7:10 p.m., NBCSCH+, 720-AM.
Saturday: Matt Shoemaker (1-0, 2.53) vs. James Shields (6-15, 4.39), 6:10 p.m., NBCSCH, 720-AM.
Sunday: TBA vs. Reynaldo Lopez (5-9, 4.37), 1:10 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM.